Cannabis can increase intimacy during sex by reducing anxiety or feelings of shame, according to a new study recently published in the Culture, Health, & Sexuality journal.
Over the past decade, a number of studies have found that cannabis can increase intimacy, help people have sex more often, and make sexual experiences more enjoyable — especially for women. The present study confirms these findings, but adds a unique twist. In most of the prior reports, the majority of research subjects have identified as straight, but the current study focuses exclusively on gay and bisexual subjects.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia recruited 41 men between the ages of 15 and 30 from the Vancouver area and interviewed them about their experiences with cannabis and sex. None of the subjects identified as straight: 3 of them identified as trans, 36 as cisgender, and the other two did not identify with a specific gender. The researchers interviewed each subject for one to two hours between January and December of 2018.
Nearly every participant in the study said that using cannabis before sex helped them feel less anxious during the experience, lowering their inhibitions and allowing for increased feelings of intimacy. Many subjects also said that weed helped them deal with anxiety connected to their own physical appearance, especially related to meeting new sex partners on hookup apps like Grindr or SCRUFF.
“In our study, we found that the use of cannabis can allow men to access a deeper sense of sexual freedom and intimacy in a context where same-sex sex is historically stigmatized,” the study authors wrote in an article for The Conversation. “In other words, the sexualized use of cannabis can help sexual and gender minority men overcome feelings of anxiety and shame resulting from internalized homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia, so that they can more fully enjoy the sex they want.”
These feelings of anxiety and shame can prevent some gay, bisexual, or trans people from fully letting their guard down during sex, but most of the study subjects said weed helped them overcome these feelings and become more intimate with their partners. One of the subjects told researchers that he felt “a lot of guilt and shame” about discovering his sexual identity later in life, but said that cannabis helped him let go of these feelings during sex.
Some of the subjects also reported that weed increased their physical enjoyment of sex and even helped some enjoy experiences that had previously not been enjoyable for them. "I've been having anal sex for, like, probably a decade, but until very, very, very recently while having an edible [i.e. ingesting cannabis], I've never actually liked it… It's never been better than a six out of ten," one subject told the researchers, according to Insider.
"I'm actually enjoying this for like the first time, solidly, like a nine out of ten [after taking the edible]!” the subject continued. “And then the next time I had sex without an edible, I was enjoying it as an eight out of ten. I'm like, 'Huh?!' So it changed something in me."
The findings of the study are extremely limited, as researchers only recruited a small number of men from one specific geographical region. The study does suggest that cannabis could be a powerful therapeutic tool for helping marginalized groups overcome sexual stigmas, however.
The researchers believe that cannabis can also help influence people to engage in safer sex. The authors wrote that “the sexualized use of crystal methamphetamine (meth) by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in a practice often referred to as ‘chemsex’ or ‘party ‘n’ play’ has been identified as a key driver of HIV infection, depression, anxiety, and suicide.” Cannabis can also increase pleasure and reduce inhibitions during sex, though, and without any of the risks associated with meth, ecstasy, or other chemicals.
The authors also note that weed “can function as a kind of social lubricant and break down socially conditioned boundaries, enabling disinhibitions while still allowing people to stay safe and follow public health directives.” During the current COVID-19 pandemic, health agencies are urging people to turn to online sexual experiences, rather than in-person encounters, and the authors believe that pot can help make these virtual sessions more enjoyable.
“Whether it’s because of a pandemic or due to harms associated with chemsex, the need to keep sexual and gender minority men safe remains vital,” the authors conclude.